As you drive down the ramp from the St.Johns bridge, there's a pull-out on the right hand side, just next to a beautiful creek flowing down from Forest Park. Locals know it well, at least in passing, as we often sit and stare in traffic, waiting for the light to lead us over the river. Lately, this pull out has been serving as my parking spot, as I head up the road to the official trailhead. But this morning, I was up for something different. As much as I know that I'll love it during and after my run, I was feeling resistance to this new structure in my life (as usual!), and thought I might mix it up just enough to change the flavor and motivate me further.
As soon as I heard the crashing of water on rock, I knew I'd chosen well. The burn in my legs kicked in quickly as the creekside trail lifted westward, and my sense of adventure began to beam. The trail kept climbing, weaving tiny switchbacks up a steep litte hilllside, and it became clear that fewer and fewer people take this route. I paused for a moment, taking in the bright green of the moose-like groundcover, and a hawk screamed. It felt a bit surreal, and I definitely didn't feel in the city anymore. The trail continued to swerve through the trees, over and through downed trees and Oregon grape, and with time, grew much less defined.
At one point, as I stood there in contemplation of the new route I'd chosen, I was struck with a moment of concern and disappointment. Granted, it was minimal, and had I not headed into the forest in part to find the inspiration to write, I don't think I would have noticed. My mind knew exactly where my car was, and could probably even find my house through the trees if I tried hard enough. But my ego responded on auto-pilot to the messages sent from my reptilian brain: Where's the path? Did I make a wrong choice? Is it time to go back?
In that moment, when I'd thought the trail ended and felt alone with nothing to follow, I paused. Initially feeling stuck in the overwhelm and the spinning of my thoughts, I took a few steps. With that forward action, I could suddenly see what was previously beyond view: more path. And as the path grew less clear, that kept happening, to the point where pausing, listening, and taking discerned action became the norm. I find it's the same in life when attempting to move past fear or doubt. Pause to notice it. Let it be there. Sense into next direction and take a few steps, letting trust overtake the doubt that those steps might be leading in the 'wrong' direction*.
And with that, we rise to a different place, and gain clarity, which can propel us to start the process over again.
Clearly, Forest Park isn't Glacier or Yosemite, and I know I'm just a short distance from the civilization and support, but the method is the same because it's all sourced from the same internal responses. Fear is fear, both in the wilds and in life. What if we can't mitigate global warming? What if everyone else gives up? What if people stay too busy? What if my way gets in the way of other people contributing? And while it may seem that the best way to address any of these fears is 'our way' - the way that has propelled us through many situations in our past - there is definitely another way which can bring us closer to that which we want in life. A different path is available, whether tried and true or completely new.
It's hard to let go of that way that feels most comfortable. I was just discussing this concept with another CCL group leader in our region. There's a lot of perceived safety, security, and structure in that comfortable, well-traveled path. I can go a little faster on the official trail, and be less focused on the moment. But does that really get me to where I want? As a new group leader, starting a Citizens' Climate Lobby group a few years ago, it felt like all I had to rely on was 'my way', as I sat in fear of what might happen if I couldn't make a difference. It really felt like a matter of life or death for me, from an ecological and societal perspective, which left me feeling that much more attached to my way. For me, that literally looked like doing and having things my way, to the point that I would give explicit direction, take it all on as mine and my responsibility, and be slow to offer others trust in how and what they might bring to the table. But, my ego also knew that it needed people to like me, so I did everything I could to master this art of perfectionistic solo activism in a very sweet way, while trying to hide my stress and any indication that I couldn't. And when I grew tired and resentful and so overwhelmed that I was ready to quit, I knew that it was time to find and learn to trust a new way.
Trust doesn't always come so easily. It's scary to let go of what feels 'right', relying instead on more of the unknown and what could possibly let us down - particularly when the stakes seem so high. But if there is no right, then wrong is gone too, and we're more free to play in the space of what is really possible through collaboration, cooperation, and exploration.
*A key aspect of the U-process, as laid out by Otto Scharmer in the U.Lab and in his amazing book Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-system to Eco-system Economies